Baseline. Set point. Rebound. HIV docs throw these words around, but they’re not sports talk. So what do they mean?

Baseline/Set Point

Right after you get HIV, your viral load (the amount of virus in your blood) skyrockets—but after about six months, it usually drops and levels off. That’s your baseline viral load, which can only be measured before you go on meds. Go on—and then off—meds and your viral load will soon find a new set point (usually near baseline). But first, you’ll probably experience....

Viral Rebound

No, it’s not a Magic Johnson joke. Say your viral load on meds is low to undetectable, and you take a treatment break. Very likely, your virus will surge far above your baseline, making a mad dash for those yummy T cells. You may get fever, head-ache, fatigue, rash or muscle aches until it settles down to its new set point. Or you may not. Either way, that’s viral rebound.